Mandatory Credit: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Chiefs fans: R-E-L-A-X

Mandatory Credit: David Eulitt/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of negativity and concern going around in regards to the 5-3 (yes, 5-3) Kansas City Chiefs. We’ve officially reached the halfway mark of the regular season slate of 16 games and with that, a lot of uncertainty still exists. What is the true identity of the 2019 Chiefs? Is the offense going to ever replicate its 2018 success? Is the defense even a little bit better? Will Andy Reid’s clock management issues cost the entire franchise a trip to the Super Bowl come January? Why is everyone hurt? What if they rush Patrick Mahomes back too ear-

Stop. Take a second. Breathe. R-E-L-A-X. Never too high, never too low.

It’s okay to have sky-high expectations for this team. Heck, Mahomes was the freaking Most Valuable Player for the entire league last season and if it weren’t for the fate of a coin toss and some defensive ineptitude, the hometown Chiefs could have had a shot at winning their first Super Bowl in nearly half a century. The entire defense was overhauled throughout the offseason and the switch from Bob Sutton to Steve Spagnuolo turned some heads. Mahomes and his main weapons (minus Kareem Hunt) were set to return for a second-straight season together. Again, no one’s blaming you for expecting a downright dominant team right out of the gate.

Despite the offense hanging 40 points on a good Jacksonville Jaguars defense Week 1, things weren’t perfect. The defense got carved up by a backup rookie quarterback en route to a 22-for-25 performance as a sixth-round pick. As the saying goes, winning cures everything. It masked a lot of the problems that no one wanted to talk about.

What about the Chiefs’ 28-10 showing against the Oakland Raiders? All 28 points came in the second quarter and the offense stalled out in the second half. Josh Jacobs averaged 9.2 yards per carry. The Chiefs rushed for just 31 yards as a team. Again, winning cures everything.

The same Baltimore Ravens that nearly escaped from Arrowhead Stadium a year ago with a victory gave Kansas City all they had and lost by just five points. The Chiefs again got absolutely dominated via the ground game but held rising star QB Lamar Jackson to zero passing touchdowns. The following week, a game-winning drive by Mahomes saved the team from dropping a game to Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. Had the game been lost, the talk would have been about a zero-touchdown performance from Mahomes and a multi-fumble performance from the entire team. Narratives change so easily depending on the outcomes of close games, and contests 5 and 6 were perfect examples of that.

After the Lions game, Andy Reid’s squad lost back-to-back home games against AFC South opponents. The Indianapolis Colts held the potent Chiefs offense to just 13 points, outclassing KC in many aspects. Time of possession, the rushing battle, heart, smarts, you name it. After taking a 17-3 lead into the second quarter of the next week’s game vs. the Houston Texans, everything appeared to be solved. Until it wasn’t, of course. Houston proceeded to outscore the Chiefs 28-7 over the final 45 minutes of the game and, like almost every opponent beforehand, ran all over Spagnuolo’s defense. Back-to-back home losses under Reid were unheard of, so Chiefs fans kept their hands near the panic button.

Every single problem was solved in Denver. KC put up 30 points and the defense had one of its best performances in years, holding Joe Flacco and company to just six points overall. Sacks were at a premium. This was the Chiefs team everyone had hoped to see all year! I hope you can sense the sarcasm in this paragraph.

Last, but certainly not least, came the Green Bay Packers. The quarterback play was solid enough to get the job done against a then six-win team but down the stretch, Aaron Rodgers was… well… Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ running backs turned into Pro Bowl wide receivers, catching three total touchdowns on the night. The Chiefs dropped a whopping THIRD home game of the season with four of those contests still left to play in front of the home crowd. Unbelievable.

Notice how I left out details? Context? The important stuff? Yep. You’ve got to take those things into account when looking at the bigger picture. A two-game stretch of bad, mistake-filled, injury-riddled football in October does not make a team what it is during a playoff game in January. The NFL changes so much from week-to-week.

Week 1, wide receiver Tyreek Hill suffered a sternoclavicular injury that held him out for the next four contests. Mahomes rolled his ankle in the same game, which would turn into something to worry about until he dislocated his kneecap against Denver. Guys like Sammy Watkins, Eric Fisher, Andrew Wylie and Damien Williams have also missed time on offense. On the other side of the ball, Chris Jones has been dealing with a groin injury for weeks. Anthony Hitchens, although not a world-beater, is an important part of the linebacking corps and has missed time. Pass rushers Alex Okafor and Frank Clark have either played through, been hindered by or been forced to sit out because of various injuries. Kendall Fuller has suffered a hand injury for the second-straight year.

Stop. Take a second. Breathe. R-E-L-A-X. Never too high, never too low.

Feel a bit better now? A bit more anxious because of the list I just made? Either way, we’ve got to take these things into consideration. No team is going to be a cohesive unit when multiple pieces are missing each week. Additionally, Spagnuolo is tasked with implementing a scheme change and using multiple different starters on a contending team in his first year as DC? It’d be a crime if it took six-to-eight weeks for everything to come together, at least to some degree. Right?

When the Kansas City Chiefs traded up to the No. 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft in order to select Patrick Mahomes, they envisioned 15-plus years of being in contention. That doesn’t mean competing for 15-plus Super Bowl titles in a row. That means that for 15-20 years, the Kansas City Chiefs should be in the hunt for a playoff spot at the end of the year — and we all know anything can happen after that.

Nothing was handed to the Chiefs. Implying that Kansas City automatically qualified for a second-consecutive trip to the AFC Championship Game because the team — and its fans — felt like it was so close to the granddaddy of all football games the year before is just wrong. That isn’t how football works. With that said, I’m not trying to rain on your parade. Remember: Never too high, never too low.

The highs are great. They could be even greater in the future. What if Mahomes returns from injury within the next few weeks, looks to be healthy and picks up where he left off in 2018? What if his offensive and defensive lines join him right as he’s ready to go? Imagine a world with a completely healthy Kansas City Chiefs team. That hasn’t been the case all season. The defense looks to be improving weekly, which is a tremendous sign. Once some key starters return, Spagnuolo’s unit could be due to make a significant leap. This is not a team to be reckoned with when at full strength.

The lows are terrible. Mahomes, as competitive and athletic as he is, could return from injury too early and… I can’t even put that into words, but you get the point. The rest of the team could continue to be severely banged up for the remainder of the season. Reid’s clock management and situational playcalling have been sore spots in the past, and may very well come back to bite him in the postseason. The defense might just be playing better knowing their leader won’t be there to bail them out on the other side of the ball. Maybe this team isn’t all that and a bag of chips, merely an exciting team to watch but not one that can ever get past the insurmountable obstacle that is the New England Patriots.

Stop. Take a second. Breathe. R-E-L-A-X. Never too high, never too low.

You can expect a Super Bowl out of the 2019 Chiefs if you want to. It’s a reasonable expectation. You cannot, however, throw in the towel on the season and say “New year, same old Chiefs. One-and-done come playoff time.” Mahomes will return eventually. So will Fisher, Wylie, Jones, Clark, Fuller and a few other guys. There’s still half a season left to fine-tune things in time for a postseason run. Keep in mind, though, the current mindset you have. Don’t let the success get to your head, and don’t let the struggles bring you down. That applies to life, and that certainly applies to the Chiefs. In the wise words of Patrick Lavon Mahomes II…

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